Danielle Smith defends floor crossing as 'a victory' for Wildrose Party

Danielle Smith is defending her decision to cross the floor to the Progressive Conservatives, calling it a 'victory; for the Wildrose Party, in an interview on CBC Radio's The House.

Wildrose caucus touted merger options as Danielle Smith criticized defectors

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice and former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith speak to media after a caucus meeting in Edmonton on Wednesday. Prentice's caucus met to discuss a bid by at least half the Official Opposition to cross the floor. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Danielle Smith is defending her decision to cross the floor to Alberta's Progressive Conservatives, calling it a "victory" for the Wildrose Party, in an interview on CBC Radio's The House

Smith took a calculated risk, in a stunning move this week, when she defected to Jim Prentice's Progressive Conservatives taking with her eight members of the Wildrose Party.

"I look at it that we won. We took down two administrations — the [Ed] Stelmach administration and the [Alison] Redford administration — that were leading the province in the exact wrong direction," Smith told host Evan Solomon.

"To me, it's declaring victory and uniting conservatives under the leadership of one person so that we can deal with some very significant challenges ahead."

Smith said a merger was proposed to her last May, but she rejected it outright because she thought it was "too soon."

This week's decision, she said, was precipitated by a series of events beginning with the loss of four byelections, which left her wondering whether the party could be "a spoiler" in urban ridings.

Those losses were compounded by the defeat of an anti-discrimination policy at the party's annual general meeting followed by the defection of two MLAs at the end of November.

Smith dismissed calls from current Wildrose MLAs to run in a byelection, but said she would conduct some polling and listen to what her constituents have to say.

"The reaction that I've had so far is people are confused, some are angry, some are frustrated but I'm also getting supportive calls as well."

Smith said she asked Prentice for a cabinet position but doesn't know if Prentice will give it to her.

Smith criticized defectors as caucus touted merger

Members of the Wildrose caucus had already started talking about unifying small-c conservatives when Smith criticized two members of the Alberta Legislature for crossing the floor to the Progressive Conservatives at the end of November.

In a separate interview that aired Friday on CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Smith said that when Wildrose MLAs Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan crossed the floor on Nov. 24, she felt she had an obligation to see whether some common ground existed between the two parties.

"I felt like I owed it to our membership and to Conservatives and Albertans to at least hear whether or not Mr. Prentice and I had common ground on policy."

"There had been some back-and-forth discussions between some of our caucus members who had already started talking about if we were to come together as a merged entity — a unification of conservatives — what policies, principles and values would we base that on," Smith said in an interview with guest host Rosemary Barton on Friday.​

Smith had publicly criticized the two MLAs for being "seduced by the perks of power."

[Jim Prentice] and I didn't start the civil war that we have among conservatives in Alberta.— Danielle Smith, former leader of the Wildrose Party

Barton asked Smith how it was that she could claim on Nov. 26 to lead one of the "strongest" opposition parties when discussions were already underway about a possible merger.

The former Wildrose leader did not deny that discussions had already begun, saying "I had to hear it out, as I say. I was intending all the way through to make sure that they knew that I was prepared to continue being a strong opposition leader."

Smith, who sat down for a face-to-face meeting with Prentice last week, defended her actions, saying it became apparent to her the Wildrose Party and the PCs had more interests in common than they had differences.

"Having sat down with Mr. Prentice … it seemed to me we got two conservative parties fighting with each other over exactly the same plan for implementation."

Smith said there is a history in the conservative movement of butting heads for a while before merging together.


  • This story has been edited from a previous version to correctly state the Wildrose had lost four recent byelections.
    Dec 20, 2014 11:16 AM ET